Paris: Both of them spent much of the year on a different planet — at least after Jennifer Capriati had won the Australian Open for a second straight year — prolonging the misery of Martina Hingis. But Venus Williams saw younger sister Serena climb even beyond her orbit as the latter beat her in the finals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open to go well clear at the top of the rankings.
The Williams’ show had been boiling up for a couple of seasons. But long before the summer was out it was virtually the only show in town as far as women’s tennis was concerned.
Yet as with all sports for every winner there has to be a loser and the big loser on the WTA circuit this year has been Martina Hingis, a pale shadow of the exuberant teen who bagged five Grand Slam singles titles by 1999, when she landed a third straight Australian Open crown.
The former world No.1, now 12 majors without a title, was forced to miss the French Open and Wimbledon as a result of ankle surgery and there are now fears she may not return.
Defending Aussie champion Capriati came back from a set and 4-0 down in the Melbourne final to win 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 and defend her crown after saving four match points to land her third Grand Slam inside 12 months.
“I kept fighting... On those match points when I was down I just went for it,” said Capriati, who survived the intense heat to become only the second woman champion to have survived a match point against her in the final, emulating 1956 champion Mary Carter.
But by season’s end even Capriati was left trailing in Serena’s wake. The one blot on the 21-year-old triple Grand Slam champion’s copybook — and it could have been a Slam of Slams had she not missed the Australian Open with an ankle injury — came when Serena lost to Kim Clijsters of Belgium 7-5, 6-3 in the WTA tour meet final.
Clijsters, 19, snaffled $765,000 for her fourth title of the year and ninth overall — and Serena wasn’t too bothered about the one that got away. “Hey, I think I had a decent year,” she said after her rare setback. I won three Slams. I guess that’s all right.”